Today, John Avlon became the latest commentator to bemoan the tea party movement’s gathering momentum in his column for The Daily Beast. The tea party’s latest talking point, according to Avlon, is that Democrats pose a far greater existential threat to America than terrorists. This sentiment was recently expressed by several prominent conservatives, including Reps. Lamar Alexander (R-TX), Virginia Foxx (R-NC) and Sally Stern (R-OK). The lack of controversy surrounding their remarks prompts Avlon to ask, “where’s the outrage?”
I’ve been pondering the same question lately. And it’s led me to conclude that many Americans choose to ignore significant political events until it’s too late to change their outcome. Then they get mad.
For instance, in the aftermath of the 2000 Presidential Election, I recall the widespread denunciation of Democrats as “whiners” and “sore losers” for demanding that every vote be counted. Most of my peers were sick of hearing about the Florida recount and refused to believe that the outcome would effect their lives in any meaningful way. A few years later, I heard many of the same people complaining loudly that George W. Bush had stolen the election.
The fervor that preceded the Iraq War is still fresh in my mind as well. At that time, I was part of a tiny minority who opposed the war on the grounds that it would jeopardize, rather than advance, our vital national interests in the region. For expressing this opinion, I was castigated for being naive, accused of treason and threatened with violence. A few years later, the same people who’d shouted me down were acting as if they’d been against the war all along.
My point in recounting these experiences is to demonstrate that, too often in our democracy, we let ourselves off the hook. It’s easy to ignore the business of government and then blame a handful of unpopular politicians when things go wrong. However, in doing so, we lose sight of the fact that we are the “deciders,” not them.
We’re the ones our elected officials must answer to and it is our duty to hold them accountable by making informed decisions at the ballot box. Those who shirk that responsibility have no right to complain when things in Washington don’t go their way.
The real problem we’re struggling with is apathy. Not enough people are paying attention to what’s going on in our country. That’s why there’s no public outcry in response to the slanderous accusations leveled at Democrats by tea party conservatives. Most people either don’t know or don’t care.
The public at large is far more concerned with the sordid details of Tiger Woods’ private life and the season premiere of American Idol. Unless we remedy this culture of indifference by re-engaging in civic life, I predict that we’ll be lamenting the incompetence and corruption of the Palin Administration in a few short years. Then, after it’s too late, the outrage will begin.